Thursday, July 18, 2024

.308 Winchester vs 5.56 NATO


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Each the .308 Winchester and 5.56 NATO cartridges have colourful histories and are among the many hottest centerfire cartridges of all-time. But, regardless of the comparisons between the 2, they’ve little in widespread by way of efficiency and have been designed to carry out completely different duties. Then why examine the .308 vs 5.56?

Principally as a result of the pair of iconic cartridges share two noteworthy similarities that tie them collectively. The .308 Win. (or its army equal the 7.62×51) and 5.56 NATO are each battle-proven cartridges which have been utilized by a number of branches of the army for many years. Second, each of those cartridges paved the best way within the early improvement of their respective AR platforms which are amongst the preferred rifle configurations at present. 

In case you’re digging into comparisons of those two cartridges, it’s probably since you’re attempting to determine between an AR-10 in .308 vs an AR-15 in 5.56. Put merely, the .308 Win. excels at participating long-range targets and offers shooters a a lot higher number of bullet weight choices, whereas the 5.56 NATO is commonly chambered in platforms which are simpler to maneuver, produce much less recoil, and are extra sensible at shut ranges. Let’s get into the main points. 

.308 and 5.56mm cartridges
The .308 and 5.56 are each glorious searching cartridges, although the .308 is best for large sport. Tyler Freel

.308 Winchester Specs

  • Bullet Diameter: .308 inches
  • Case Size: 2.015 inches
  • General Size: 2.8 inches
  • Dad or mum Case: .300 Savage

5.56 NATO Specs

  • Bullet Diameter: .224 inches
  • Case Size: 1.76 inches
  • General Size: 2.26 inches
  • Dad or mum Case: 223 Remington

Historical past

.308 Winchester

The M1 Garand, chambered in .30/06 Springfield, gallantly served the US Armed Forces by way of World Battle II in addition to the Korean Battle. Shortly after, the 7.62×51 NATO cartridge was developed and formally adopted as a NATO cartridge in 1954, providing almost related ballistics to the beloved .30/06 Springfield in a brief motion cartridge. Concurrently, Winchester launched the .308 Winchester cartridge in 1952, an almost an identical cartridge to the 7.62×51 NATO with two slight variations and the intent for civilian use. 

The .308 Win. differentiates itself from the 7.62×51 NATO by taking pictures ammunition loaded to the next stress. SAAMI permitted max stress for the .308 Win is 62,000 PSI, whereas NATO EPVAT permitted max stress for the 7.62×51 NATO is listed at 60,000 PSI. Because of the increased stress, the wall thickness of .308 Win. brass is barely thinner than the 7.62×51 NATO to accommodate the extra stress.

Since its inception, the .308 Win. has risen by way of the ranks as one of the crucial standard cartridges of all-time, appeasing gun lovers from all genres of the taking pictures sports activities. The .308 Win. additionally has been adopted into a wide selection of rifle configurations from bolt-action to the favored AR-10s.

.308 and 5.56 match ammo
The .308 and 5.56mm cartridges are each able to nice accuracy. The M118 and MK 262 are lengthy vary service hundreds for every cartridge respectively. Tyler Freel

5.56 NATO

The story of the 5.56 NATO cartridge is comparable in nature to the 7.62×51 NATO and was derived from the event of the .223 Remington. Or because the army referred to it as, the 5.56×45. The U.S. Army adopted the 5.56×45 cartridge, together with Armalite’s M16 rifle in 1963, laying the groundwork for the preferred sporting rifle design of our time, the AR-15. Remington launched the .223 Rem. to civilians the next 12 months. 

Nevertheless, it was not till 1977 that NATO accepted the 5.56×45 cartridge with slight variations. NATO bumped the chamber stress within the 5.56 NATO to 61,000 PSI whereas the SAAMI permitted chamber stress for the .223 Rem. remained at 55,000 PSI. Bodily cartridge dimensions for the 223 Rem. and 5.56 NATO are almost an identical. In mild of this, everybody agrees there’s no problem taking pictures .223 Rem. ammo in rifles marked for five.56 NATO. Nevertheless, the standard take is that as a result of the .223 is loaded to decrease pressures that 5.56 NATO ammo shouldn’t be utilized in barrels stamped .223 Remington.

OL staffer Tyler Freel has discovered that this conventional perspective is bunk. “In case you’re attempting a brand new 5.56mm NATO load in your .223 chamber, verify for stress indicators, certain, however in a contemporary rifle, you’re not prone to encounter any points,” Freel writes. “I’ve fired an incredible quantity of army M855 ball and different 5.56mm NATO by way of common previous .223 chambers with out a lot as a flattened primer—together with on this check.”

The 5.56 NATO cartridge has confirmed its price as a succesful cartridge match for light-weight rifle platforms.


Evaluating ballistic efficiency between the .308 Win. and 5.56 NATO will not be truthful to both cartridge given the drastic distinction in bullet diameter (.308 vs. .224) and obtainable bullet weights. For example this, I chosen a heavy-for-caliber searching load from each cartridges. 

308 vs 556
The .308 Winchester (left) and 5.556 NATO (proper) have very completely different ballistics. Out of doors Life

.308 Win. Remington Core-Lokt 180-grain

  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,620 fps
  • Power @300 yds: 1,558 ft-lb
  • Drop @ 300 yds: 9.7 inches (with a 200-yard zero)

5.56 NATO Barnes VOR-TX 70-grain 

  • Muzzle Velocity: 2,850 fps
  • Power @300 yds: 656 ft-lb
  • Drop @300 yds: 8.6 inches (with a 200-yard zero)

It’s straightforward to see the distinction within the two cartridges and their skill to ship downrange vitality. That is merely as a result of .308 Win.’s skill to shoot a lot heavier projectiles. It is usually price noting that regardless of the distinction in muzzle velocity and bullet weight that the bullet drop between the 2 stays negligible with these two hundreds, each displaying 51 inches of drop at 500 yards.

The diminished vitality of the 5.56 NATO at 300 yards factors to one of many cartridge’s limitations. It’s a nice cartridge for shut vary, private protection in addition to searching in shut quarters. However at longer ranges, the 5.56 NATO will not be a viable searching cartridge for something greater than a coyote. By the numbers, and private accounts of quite a few hunters every fall, the .308 Win. can successfully take down huge critters like moose and elk to 300 yards and past relying on bullet choice.


The place the 5.56 NATO actually shines over the .308 Win. is by way of felt recoil. However this doesn’t come as any shock given the drastic distinction in bullet weights and powder costs between the 2 cartridges. Felt recoil when firing a 5.56 NATO is extra like a slight push than a pointy jab, with recoil averaging between 5 and 6 foot-pounds. This permits shooters to identify impacts in addition to rapidly re-engage their meant goal.

In distinction, the .308 Win. on common produces round 20 ft-lbs. of recoil, almost tripling that of the 5.56 NATO. Nonetheless, even with 20 ft-lbs. of recoil, the .308 Win. is a light recoiling cartridge when in comparison with different .30 caliber cartridges. Using a muzzle brake or suppressor will drastically dampen the felt recoil of the .308 Win. to very manageable ranges.


best 5.56 ammo, ar 15 ammo
A sampling of the 5.56 ammo that Tyler Freel examined. Tyler Freel

Each the .308 and 5.56 NATO/.223 Rem. cartridges have nice accuracy potential, and each will usually shoot nicely in manufacturing unit rifles. In latest testing, Freel has discovered that for manufacturing unit ammo by way of manufacturing unit rifles, the 5.56 Nato and .223 are usually extra correct than the .308. With a wide range of rifles and ammunition, Freel has recorded 258 5-shot teams that averaged 1.923 inches for .308 and 573 5-shot teams that averaged 1.206 inches for .223.

READ NEXT: Greatest .308 Rifles

Good varmint ammunition is correct and efficient past 300 yards, and trendy match bullets have made it lethal correct to 600 yards and past. In actual fact, it’s been many years because the .223 and 5.56 NATO toppled the .308 because the king of service rifle competitors. At 600 yards and past, most shooters use slippery 80- and 90-grain VLD-type bullets, however from a 16-inch carbine firing magazine-length Barnes 85-grain OTM ammo, Freel was capable of run a 10-shot string into the 6-inch X-ring on the 600-yard-line earlier than a wind swap cooled the recent streak—and wind is the 5.56 NATO’s weak spot at longer distances.

Terminal Efficiency

The .308 Win. and 5.56 NATO usually are not meant for a similar objective. Because of its lighter bullets, the 5.56 NATO cartridge is right for taking down varmints and deer-sized sport. Coyote hunters particularly gravitate to the 5.56 NATO for its skill to quickly ship a number of photographs down vary in addition to its skill to not harm the fur to unreasonable ranges. It is usually widespread for the 5.56 NATO for use within the whitetail woods the place photographs are shut and hunters are aware of felt recoil. In actual fact, taking pictures editor John B. Snow even picked it as one of many finest deer searching cartridges

Since its introduction within the early ’50s, the .308 has constructed a stable popularity as a particularly succesful searching cartridge for all the pieces from thin-skinned pronghorn on as much as huge bull elk and even moose. Although, I might not suggest the .308 Win. to take down huge bruins, given the right bullet choice and shot placement, it’s definitely succesful.

Ammunition Availability and Choice

The Hornady Outfitter in .308 Win.
Tyler Freel

The provision and number of each the .308 Win. and 5.56 NATO ammunition is bigger than simply about another cartridge in the marketplace. Even by way of the ammo scarcity the previous few years, ammunition for each of those cartridges has been comparatively straightforward to acquire. With the latest uptick within the ammunition on the cabinets at our native gun retailers, the quantity and number of .308 Win. and 5.56 NATO ammunition continues to extend.

READ NEXT: Greatest .308 Looking Ammo

Frequent manufacturing unit .308 Win. searching ammunition might be bought with bullet weights ranging anyplace from 110-grains to 185-grains. A number of heavier bullet choices can be found, however they’re meant primarily for goal taking pictures. Common ammunition for the 5.56 NATO function bullet weights starting from 50- to- 70-grains. With each cartridges interesting to a variety of taking pictures lovers, the number of bullet weight and configurations obtainable is spectacular.

READ NEXT: Greatest 5.56 Ammo

The fee for a field of .308 Win. ammunition varies drastically between $25 and $70 per field with the common value hovering between $35 and $40. That is one other class the place the .556 NATO features a bonus as ammunition value is usually less expensive. The common value of a field of 5.56 NATO ammunition runs between $15 and $20. One other factor to remember is that it’s not unusual to buy 5.56 NATO ammunition in bulk. Not solely does this provide you with extra ammunition but it surely additionally usually drives down the common value per shell. There are some cases the place you should purchase bulk .308 Win. ammunition, however these alternatives usually are not almost as quite a few as with 5.56 NATO ammunition.

AR-10 vs AR-15

The AR-15, chambered in 5.56 NATO or .223 Rem. is the preferred sporting rifle design at present. What many don’t notice is that the  AR-10 initially chambered in 7.62×51 was developed first. Whereas not a part of the cartridge comparability, understanding the variations between the AR-10 and AR-15 is a vital part to understanding the professionals and cons of each the 5.56 NATO and .308 Win.

With out diving into the nitty gritty of the 2 platforms, the AR-10, generally chambered in .308 Win., is notoriously heavy. This spurred the event of the 5.56×45 cartridge and the AR-15/M16 rifles, to make a military-grade weapon that was a lot lighter and nimble for shut vary fight. Each cartridges have diligently served a number of branches of the army and supply two very completely different benefits. The AR-10 (.308 Win.) affords long-range precision at the price of extra weight whereas the AR-15 (5.56 NATO) affords a light-weight various with considerably much less recoil however has a shorter efficient vary than the AR-10.

.308 vs 5.56 ammo
Each the .308 and 5.56/.223 cartridges can deal with a wide range of bullet weights inside their respective lessons. Tyler Freel

.308 vs 5.56 Q&A

Which one is best for goal taking pictures?

This will depend on the kind of goal taking pictures you need do do, however in lots of instances 5.56 has a bonus. In case you’re taking pictures targets at ranges of 600 yards and below, 5.56 is simply as correct, cheaper, and extra shooter-friendly. If you wish to focus at ranges past 600 yards, go together with the .308 or one of many different finest lengthy vary calibers. 

Which one is cheaper?

In case you’re on the lookout for low cost ammo, go together with the 5.56. 

Which has extra bullet drop?

With a a lot heavier bullet, the .308 has extra bullet drop (as you may see within the chart above) but it surely additionally delivers much more vitality downrange. 

Last Ideas on .308 vs 5.56

Each cartridges include a bag of professionals and cons. The .308 Win. is without doubt one of the hottest searching cartridges in historical past with the flexibility to ship ample knock-down energy to take most animals in North America. Ammunition can also be available in a variety of bullet weights and configurations however is almost twice the worth of 5.56 NATO ammunition. In case you intend to primarily shoot on the vary or use a rifle for residence protection, the 5.56 NATO can be a extra appropriate possibility as a result of cheaper ammunition, lack of recoil, and talent to simply maneuver with the rifle.

Choosing the .308 vs 5.55 hinges on a shooter’s meant use for his or her rifle. If you’re searching huge sport with it, there isn’t a doubt in my thoughts the .308 Win. is the best way to go. Nevertheless, in case you are on the lookout for a enjoyable gun to plink with on the vary, hunt predators with, and use for home-defense, you’ll have a tough time beating the 5.56 NATO.


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